Swedish legislator Jamal El-Haj, a member of the Riksdag, the national legislature, may face consequences in his Swedish Social Democratic Party after attending a conference affiliated with Hamas.
The opposition lawmaker participated in “The 20th European Palestinians Conference: 75 Years On... We Will Return” in Malmö on Saturday, even though the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party withdrew in light of the event’s affiliation with Hamas.
“It is worrying that he chose to participate in the conference despite the party’s advice,” the Social Democrats were quoted as saying by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “The group leadership in the [parliament] will summon Jamal El-Haj to discuss what happened.”
Sweden's Social Democrats
The Social Democratic Party, which led Sweden as recently as 2021, advised its representatives not to attend the conference. But El-Haj, a member of the Riksdag Foreign Affairs Committee, went anyway.
His participation in the event was first brought to light by Swedish academic and columnist Daniel Schatz, who tweeted about it on Sunday, demanding answers from the Social Democrats and calling on El-Haj to be forced to resign.
El-Haj can be seen embracing European Palestinians Conference chairman Amin Abu Rashid in a video of the event. Abu Rashid is known to be affiliated with Hamas, although he has called the accusation “Israeli lies.” Abu Rashid has been photographed receiving a plaque from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and has organized Hamas-funded flotillas from Europe to the Gaza Strip in the past, which were meant to challenge the IDF’s naval blockade.
The London-based European Palestinians Conference includes several organizations in Europe and was founded by the Palestinian Return Center, which Israel designated as an arm of Hamas in 2010. Haniyeh has attended their annual event several times.
The Palestinian Authority, the PLO and Fatah also consider the European Palestinians Conference to be a Hamas organization. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the PLO threatened to expel anyone who attends the Malmo event, which PLO Secretary-General Hussein Al-Sheikh said was meant to sow divisions in Palestinian communities in Europe.
The European Palestinians Conference and Abu Rashid did not have ties to Hamas, El-Haj told Swedish newspaper Sydvenskan.
Regarding the photo of Abu Rashid receiving a plaque from Haniyeh, he said if Abu Rashid “received an award from Haniyeh, or anyone else, it does not mean that they belong to or represent the organization. I have asked Amin this question, and he confirmed that they do not represent the organization.”
“I have criticized Hamas in my articles and motions,” El-Haj said. “Why would they invite someone like me?”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which advises Jews not to travel to Malmö because of antisemitism, wrote on Twitter: “Everything wrong with Sweden is encapsulated in one picture. Monstrous Hamas – a genocidal, terrorist, anti-Jewish, organization whose founding Charter invokes Protocols of Zion convenes in Malmö.”